(ABC4) – Memorial Day is an important day to honor and remember military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is also important to remember the animals that have served the country, as well.
One notable group was the “Dogs for Defense” who served during World War II. Established in 1942, over 18,000 dogs were used for military service. Many of these dogs were volunteered for service by their owners.
By 1944, seven breeds were deemed acceptable for the U.S. Army. These included the German shepherd, Doberman pinscher, Belgian sheepdog, Collie, Siberian husky, Malamute, and the Eskimo dog.
Dogs were trained to alert their handlers of any strangers and to attack on command. Many dogs were used to patrol beaches along the coast due to concerns of Japanese submarines.
Another duty these dogs were trained for was detecting landmines. These dogs were sent abroad to keep American soldiers safe from hidden explosives in the ground.
While many dogs were placed in dangerous situations, others were used as therapy animals for veterans who were suffering from PTSD or other ailments.
Many saw that donating their pet was a patriotic sacrifice. The idea became implemented in pop culture, appearing in songs like, “I’d Like to Give My Dog to Uncle Sam” by Red River Dave. Advertisements were even placed in local papers with one headline saying, “Shep will show ’em…” featuring a young boy saying goodbye to his collie dog.
Today, military working dogs are used in all branches of the military and receive as much recognition and admiration as their human comrades.